12/9/11

Is this about bullies again?

This isn't really about bullies the way you might think.  It's more about the public service that a certain amount of what might be called bullying can provide the child who is a little - shall we say - "Out of Sync" with the rest.

I know - shocking.  With all the victim tragedies out there and all the prevention campaigns, this may not be the time to appear to defend bullying. Actually, as a past victim of bullies myself, I'm rather grateful for the efforts made to unearth this scourge in our schools and for the actions being taken to prevent bullying - for the most part.  But the other day something happened that made me think; could this anti-bullying campaign go too far; just like the zero tolerance policy for weapons did?   Do you remember news stories about young students being suspended, expelled, or even arrested for bringing pocket knives or toy guns to school?   It makes me wonder, will we hear of students being harshly disciplined for so-called bullying if they so much as point and laugh at a fellow student whose behavior is beyond the pale?

If you were an elementary or middle school student with a classmate who consistently behaved in ways that made you uncomfortable, what would you do? Point and snicker? Elbow your friend and whisper, "Check out the weirdo"?   Maybe you would be bothered enough to say something to the oddly-behaving peer like; "Hey Goof!  Cut it out!"
Maybe it would be better to studiously ignore the odd kid? But could you be accused of bullying if he noticed you and others were purposely ignoring him?

All these thoughts came to me when I was driving up to retrieve my three students from school the other day.  As I followed the line of cars up the parking lot to the covered walkway behind the school where all the car-riders wait, I spotted Orangeboy lying flat on his back on the sidewalk.   He wasn't actually lying completely flat on his back.  He was wearing his backpack on his back and so he was technically lying on top of that.  He appeared to be talking or singing to himself.  He then rolled on his side, jumped up and with a big goofy grin on his face, he began swinging around a pole by one arm.  I noticed that all the other students standing around were not looking at him or saying anything to him.  I decided it was odd that none of them reacted in what I would have thought was a normal way for young teens to react to that sort of display of social cluelessness.  I concluded that either all of Orangeboy's peers are suffering from a similar state of social isolation, or they had been so thoroughly indoctrinated against bullying that they couldn't even point and snicker for fear of being accused.

When he hopped into the car, I asked Orangeboy why he was lying on the sidewalk; which is, afterall, designed primarily for walking and not for lounging.  He told me he wasn't. I told him he WAS, I saw him.  
He said, "Oh."
I guess nobody actually noticed his odd positioning on the sidewalk, including Orangeboy himself.  Which brings me back to the teasing or taunting that could be called bullying; it could have helped Orangeboy.  I'm merely claiming that if a fellow student had made Orangeboy aware that his behavior was not acceptable for a cool middle school guy, Orangeboy might be more alert to the fact that he probably should remain standing in a casual slouch while waiting for his Mom to pick him up after school. 

A little peer pressure can go a long way.  A lot of repeated pressure from some peers can be bullying.  I hope we don't get the two confused because I hear that future employers can be rather judgmental about such things as lying down on the job.

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